recommended settings to photograph in low light using nikon d7000. 18_200mm & sb600 flash

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by alex_pichardo, Jun 12, 2013.

  1. Hello everyone. This weekend I'm going to be photographing and event
    in a big room where the ceiling is around 70' and ambient light is going
    to be near total darkness. There are going to be some robots disco
    lights. My gear is a Nikon d7000 18.200mm lens and the sb600 flash, a
    flash bracket and a on flash bouncer. This is my first time taking
    pictures in dark environment and I am a bit nervous because I know a
    person who took photos at same place few months ago and I don't like
    his pictures they look quite dark and the colors don't look nice at all.
    what would be some good settings to photograph in near total
    darkness? Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Shoot raw with lens wide open at given focal length, 3200 or 6400 asa. I do not believe that flash will help You, depending on what You shoot, i.e. is there something going on on podium, or You are just shooting atmosphere. Is it some kind of musical event, club? It would be interesting to catch these disco lights and people dancing. Personally I would avoid flash in these situations, and try to catch mood of people dancing in the darkness with strobo lights, and lasers.....Shooting raw is for later correction of potential problems with white balance in low light situation. Or just play with lond exposure people movements and lower asa settings. It can create interesting pics. Just aim for the body movement if I am correct that You are speaking about dancing event.
     
  3. Thanks for your answer. I will be taking pictures of people dancing and groups sitting on their tables things like that. Thanks again!
     
  4. I think I'm of the opposite opinion on this. The 18-200 is around 3.5-5.6 maximum aperture if my memory is correct. That means it's simply too slow to shoot without flash underr the lighting conditions you're describing. The real question is how dark is "near total darkness." If it's really that, no amount of shooting wide open and slowing down the shutter speed is going to help without ending up with motion blur and being out of focus on a high percentage of shots. (If you're wide open, you have no depth of filed, and if the room is "near total darkness" your AF system is going to have trouble hitting focus to start with.) The disco lights arent' likely putting out much light and it's going to be hit or miss whether they are on the people at the split second when you shoot.

    I think the best you can do is treat this as a flash job. I would shoot at f/8, even f/11 to give yourself some depth of field because the AF is likely to have trouble in the darkness, especially with such a slow lens. (Separate from exposure issues, the slowness of the 3.5-5.6 maximum aperture leaves the camera with lesss light to focus by than a faster lens.) If you can get the flash off camera -- even holding it off to the side at arm's length with a coiled sync cord -- you can improve the lighting. It's going to look like it was shot with flash, but I don't think you have a lot of choice if it's really as dark as you say.

    I would make sure I covered myself on the must-have "money shots" with flash. Then maybe experiment a little with what little existing light there is. Try to shoot people who are closest to the lights. That's the situation where you can open up the lens, crank up the ISO and see what you can get. But shoot lots of frames because you're going to have a lot of rejects to get a few good ones.
     
  5. Use the center AF point only, and make sure you are shooting in AF-S mode (so the infra-red AF aid on the flash will light up and help the camera obtain AF. This will not work for subjects moving toward or away from you.
    Also, you will want to stop the lens down as recommended above to at last f8 - this will vastly increase DOF and will 'save' pictures that might have been out of focus otherwise.
    Using a diffuser of some kind will help make the pictures look more natural.
     
  6. Just in case... is this your only lens? If you've also got, say, a 50mm or 35mm f/1.8 kicking around, it might be a much better option, if you can get close enough, because it lets in much more light. Just in case you were ignoring them because you wanted the reach of the zoom. I managed a little success with a 135 f/2 once, though something like a 50 f/1.4 is much better for groups. (I've had "low light" that was fine at f/1.4 on a D700, though the venue turning the lights down half way through the main wedding dance when I was trying to manual focus a 135 f/2.8 wasn't so good, and "low light" that I could barely see in, where all you can do is your best.)

    I'm an amateur, but here's what I last tried under similar circumstances...

    I'm always nervous that the flash is going to get annoying for people, though I may be over-sensitive. I'd be careful when I timed it, even so. Take some spare batteries. I've used two flashes, one on the end of a monopod and the other held next to the far end of the monopod (that I was holding, with the camera doing wireless triggering in the middle, in these circumstances - it gets you makeshift clamshell lighting, which is about as near to flattering as you're going to get if you're getting individuals or small groups. It's a bit hard on the wrist, though. I mention it in case you can borrow a second flash; if you're lucky, you might make do with a reflector. In any case, getting the main flash off the camera is a good idea.

    For dancing disco crowds in the darkness, I'd suggest a wide angle and no flash. You'll get a bit of subject movement, but at the wide end it'll be less visible. Missed focus won't matter as much. If you flash directly while trying to get a group, you'll just get "rabbit in the headlights", and the nearer people will be much brighter than the farther ones; the SB-600 is a respectable flash, but not "lighting a crowd with the reflection off a 70' ceiling" respectable. If you can get up high - or put the camera on a monopod and suspend it over your head - you can get a crowd shot that's different from the obvious view. If you've got a cable release, that might help - especially if you want to time it for the disco lights going up.

    I'd think about AF-On for focus, and try to latch onto edges in the crowd when the lights hit them. Then leave the focus where it is for your timed shots of the crowd. I left the camera in manual mode and auto-ISO so that it could try to deal with fluctuating lights when I last tried this - but then that's usually how I shoot anyway.

    Unless someone's right in front of a light, the long end of the zoom is unlikely to work for you. If you have a monopod with you and brace against something, you might get a candid of someone being very still (or asleep!) which can have merit, but I suspect you'll be at the shorter end, especially since f/3.5 is quite a lot faster than f/5.6. Don't go too short when getting people around a table, because it won't be flattering to those at the edges.

    Raw and a lot of post-processing are your friends. Don't forget that video might work well for dancers. Pick on people in the light. (If anyone lights a cigarette or uses a phone, don't forget that's light - though be careful where you meter).

    Good luck. Cameras need photons, so don't expect miracles. Try not to get your camera trashed, and try not to trip anyone up!

    Have I mentioned that a cheap monopod can be handy? :)

    (More facetiously, if you actually wanted to get people in the dark, strap some film over the flash gun and put an R72 on the camera. Then you can shoot away in infrared without annoying people much. It may not be what you're expected to deliver, though!)
     
  7. Can you try some shots there before you have to do it 'for real'?
    The 18-200 is not the ideal lens for this, as others pointed out. If you have no other choice, then indeed, make it a flash-fest, f/8, ISO1600 and the SB600. The one setting to check with the SB600 is that it doesn't use the iTTL-BL (balanced lighting) setting. That will try to balance the subject versus the background, and by the sound of it, that's the wrong choice for the venue you're shooting. Also consider, if it really is that dark, the SB600 is going to use a lot of its power, resulting in slow recycle times. Plus, carry sufficient AA batteries. Another thing - I did always find the AF focussing grid the SB600 sends out helping quite well - be sure to enable it to give your AF a bit a chance.
    (Note; I'm no pro either, but I've used the SB600 quite a bit, also in dim-lit occassions with backlight and high ceilings... it's a good flashgun, but that TTL-BL stuff sometimes got in my way when I hoped for too much automation...)
    But something like a 17-55 f/2.8 would already solve a lot of the problems....
     
  8. Alex: +++What Wouter said ... any chance AT ALL of going a day early, or a few hours early with an assistant (model) to TRY things before 'the chips are down' ... not only will you find your best settings, it will boost your CONFIDENCE, HUGE...you will get what you want, and stay 'cool' even if the air-conditioning is working poorly ....;-)
     
  9. Thank you all for the answers. I will try to visit the place 2 days before
    the event to try different settings. I also own a Nikon 50mm 1.8 but the
    crop factor is going to be a challenge to frame my subjects without
    moving backwards. I am thinking about buying the Nikkor 35mm 1.8 dx
    but not sure yet. Thanks again!
     
  10. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    If it is at all possible, I would rent something like a 17-55mm/f2.8 AF-S, from Nikon or third parties, for this event. AF will be much faster and more accurate when you have more light hitting the AF module, regardless of whether you actually capture at f2.8 or not. And regardless of which lens you use, but especially one that you are not familiar with, some practice will help.
    The D7000 has 9 cross-type AF points, in a 3x3 matrix in the center. I would use those AF points as much as you can.
     
  11. Shoot raw with lens wide open at given focal length, 3200 or 6400 asa. I do not believe that flash will help You​
    ISO 6400 is tricky with a D3s and a 24-70; an 18-200 is only 3.5 only from 18-24mm; f/4 and beyond is far too slow to go no-flash. i will generally pack a 50/1.4 or 85/1.4 if i'm going to be under dim conditions and i need to keep up a fast shutter speed, so a 35/1.8 isnt a bad option here (although the not-yet-released sigma 18-35/1.8 would be ideal).
    For dancing disco crowds in the darkness, I'd suggest a wide angle and no flash. You'll get a bit of subject movement, but at the wide end it'll be less visible.​
    ??? Most club-type shots you see are shot with flash, unless there is sufficient artificial light--such as stage lights--this is just terrible advice, especially since the OP doesnt have a w/a lens.
    If you flash directly while trying to get a group, you'll just get "rabbit in the headlights", and the nearer people will be much brighter than the farther ones​
    Not if you balance the flash exposure with ambient light.
    the SB-600 is a respectable flash, but not "lighting a crowd with the reflection off a 70' ceiling" respectable.​
    The SB-600 is actually quite capable for this type of thing because you can easily toggle through manual flash options without having to go into menus. No, it wont light up the entire ceiling, but used correctly, it can produce plenty of keepers.
    The one setting to check with the SB600 is that it doesn't use the iTTL-BL (balanced lighting) setting. That will try to balance the subject versus the background, and by the sound of it, that's the wrong choice for the venue you're shooting.​
    Actually, not shooting a balanced flash exposure, i.e. direct flash, can result in much more of a deer in the headlights look, while blacking out the backgrounds much more. if you're trying to capture a party scene, balancing flash exposure helps capture the entire scene by letting in more ambient light. I actually recommend not using TTL-BL, but dialing in manual flash and setting flash to rear curtain (more on this below).
    a few additional things: 1) shooting low-light with a slow lens calls for flash, period. available light isnt really a realistic option unless you have a 2.8 or faster lens. 2) that said, no reason why you can't get good flashed shots. 3) forget about bounce-flashing off a 70' ceiling, although you may still want to angle your flashgun. 4) a bracket should remove red-eye from the situation; you might also want to consider an off-camera cord. 5) Before i got the D3s, i've had great results in the past shooting this environment with a d300, Tamron 17-50, and sb-600. the key is to use manual flash; by dialing down the flash, combined with a high ISO, you are compensating for the lack of light with a balanced exposure and also reducing the brightness of each individual flash while shortening flash recycling time; at 1/8 an sb-600 can shoot 1 fps easily and shouldnt be too jarring. you may have to play around with different combinations of ISO and flash power, or simply set auto-ISO with a 1600 limit if you find yourself regularly up that high. 6) another fun setting is rear curtain slow-sync. combined with a slow shutter speed--1/10 and under--you can get motion blur effects while keeping main subject sharp. it takes a bit of practice/experimentation/trial/error, but if you can't figure this kind of stuff out, you shouldnt be shooting events in any official capacity, anyway. 7) i'm not sure you need to shoot at f/8; that sounds like overcompensation and could impact the ability to dial the flash down, sunce you've giving up so much leeway to aperture. i would see what kind of results you get at 3.5 or maybe f/4 first, and stop down to 5.6 only if necessary (in all likelihood, you probably wont have to go longer than 24mm as far as focal length -- try to get in close and tight and shoot wide). i recognize that the 18-200 doesnt have a rep for sharpness, but do you need everything in focus? if you're only taking a few shots, maybe, but if you're shooting a series of shots documenting the party, subject isolation and creative framing/composition will make the series more dramatic and interesting. stopping down too far could give pics a static, boring quality, as opposed to capturing the sense of movement and motion taking place.
    the idea is to use a combination of flash, ISO, and shutter to help you frame the light perfectly and obtain a flashed shot with colors which don't look unnatural, even with different-colored lighting. flash doesnt have to be overpowering; it can be subtle.
    one big x-factor is how conducive the background will be to what you are trying to do. i've shot in nightclubs and in churches, and if you have a flat white or black background, it's much tougher to get aesthetically-pleasing results.
    00bjcs-540760884.jpg
     
  12. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I'd really like to see some shots of similar events and conditions from the people who say you shouldn't use flash in this situation. As Eric shows (and says), this is strictly a flash situation. Anyone who shoots these events is using flash, often with slow sync flash. Let's see the pics that prove him wrong.
     
  13. That lens is going to disappoint you in this particular instance. I'm sure of it. I had one for years.
    You need fast glass. Rent it if you can.
     
  14. Get faster lens, and get stronger flash, like SB800, etc.
    With SB800 you would get the PC sync socket on the flash, or use PC socket on some higher end cameras.
    If the ceiling is not black or dark, use PC sync socket and connect a strong handle mount flash blasting to the ceiling, or white wall, in addition to your iTTL flash in the camera hot shoe doing flash light automation.
    Chances of over exposing from the shooting to the roof flash will be small, but will improve your flash light dynamic ambient level. Practice to select best ratio of flash light ambient, and flash light direct lighting. That is to select best automatic flash setting (ISO, Aperture), to let root pointing flash in manual at full power, to light up a bit the background scene dark places.
    Take many pictures, since some could be over exposed.
     
  15. Eric is right, wrt to the iTTL-BL... I phrased myself clumsy, my point was most that leaving the SB600 on iTTL-BL (its default) and using non-direct flash (I'd use a bouncecard of sorts) leaves a lot to be desired in my experience. Taking manual control probably will work out best indeed.
     
  16. For dancing disco crowds in the darkness, I'd suggest a wide angle and no flash. You'll get a bit of subject movement, but at the wide end it'll be less visible.​
    ??? Most club-type shots you see are shot with flash, unless there is sufficient artificial light--such as stage lights--this is just terrible advice, especially since the OP doesnt have a w/a lens.​
    My concern was specifically for dancing crowds. For a small number of people, a flash is definitely the way. For a whole dance floor, it sounded as though getting lighting that was even enough to avoid washing out the people at the front while still showing some people at the back was going to be challenging, with the ceiling so far away. I've only photographed this kind of thing as a guest at weddings, and didn't feel it was my place to set off a strobe repeatedly while people's eyes were dark-adjusted; I may have been over-considerate. Depending on the ambient light levels and stage lights washing over the crowd, I suggest that something might be possible, and certainly more than by using the long end of the lens. As for no w/a, I call 18mm wide (although not ridiculously so) even on DX, and at that length the lens is f/3.5 - only half(ish) a stop behind f/2.8. Depending on the look you're after and where you can get the lights, I'm prepared to believe that there are flash options.
    If you flash directly while trying to get a group, you'll just get "rabbit in the headlights", and the nearer people will be much brighter than the farther ones​
    Not if you balance the flash exposure with ambient light.​
    True, though I was assuming that there wasn't going to be enough light to do that (for a crowd of dancing - and therefore moving - people). I've nothing against fill flash. And you're quite right to mention second curtain sync (which I should have thought to say).
    the SB-600 is a respectable flash, but not "lighting a crowd with the reflection off a 70' ceiling" respectable.​
    The SB-600 is actually quite capable for this type of thing because you can easily toggle through manual flash options without having to go into menus. No, it wont light up the entire ceiling, but used correctly, it can produce plenty of keepers.​
    One of the odd benefits of the Nikons with integrated flash is that you can set flash exposure compensation on the camera that will apply to any slave flashes; as far as I can tell, with something like a D3, you can only adjust flash exposure one group at a time. Of course, you need two hands to press the right button... Anyway, I defer to Eric's flash experience here. One other suggest is, again, to use a monopod to get the flash up high (remember the D7000 can optical trigger an SB600 if there are cable-length worries), and this might help even out some lighting. Unless you actively want to focus the illumination on the people right at the front, of course.

    Jeff: It's been a while. If I can find my images, I'll post a sample. I'm not claiming that they're good, but I do remember getting at least something representative of the crowd dancing in extremely dark conditions. I don't claim it's the only approach, just that it has some merits.

    On that note... Alex: do you have the opportunity to try some interesting angles? If the "big room" has a balcony, you might be able to do a long exposure undisturbed with a tripod (or at least gorillapod/bean bag). That might be better than some of my "dangle things from the end of a monopod" suggestions.
     
  17. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    As Eric and Jeff point out, definitely use flash under such conditions unless flash is not allowed. ISO 6400 on the D7000 is far from the best, and your shutter speed is going to suffer with a slow lens such as the 18-200.

    Again, I would highly recommend that you find a 17-55mm/f2.8 type zoom and use flash in addition to it.
     
  18. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I'm not claiming that they're good, but I do remember getting at least something representative of the crowd dancing in extremely dark conditions.​
    That's not very useful then, is it? He's going to shoot an event in a way that will get "at least something representative" and be happy? Especially after he's discussed problems with it?
    It's not that difficult to put a flash on the camera and bounce (like the one I've posted here) or use slow sync and direct flash. And it gives good photos that people like, not ones that in some murky way provide "something representative."
    Anyone wanting to do this should read Eric's post and follow his advice, especially if it's the first time.
    [​IMG]
     
  19. For a whole dance floor, it sounded as though getting lighting that was even enough to avoid washing out the people at the front while still showing some people at the back was going to be challenging, with the ceiling so far away.​

    the approach i was suggesting here wasn't to try to capture the entire dance floor at once, which is really only going to work in a posed, or at least pre-planned, group shot. look at a club crowd as a bunch of individual scenes all happening at the same time. that's really like infinite opportunity for candids. but you cant capture it all at once. and you have to work the angles. people in club situations dont always move in a straight line, and will walk into your line of sight unless you're moving as well.

    use a monopod to get the flash up high (remember the D7000 can optical trigger an SB600 if there are cable-length worries), and this might help even out some lighting.​
    a monopod is essentially a truncheon. that may be problematic in a club environment, unless you stick to one spot. an off-camera cord allows for better mobility on a dance floor and is more versatile.
     
  20. That's not very useful then, is it? He's going to shoot an event in a way that will get "at least something representative" and be happy? Especially after he's discussed problems with it?​
    Jeff, I didn't say "don't use flash", I said that if you want to get some images of the whole crowd - and maybe you don't - then the light fall-off from a flash might be an issue; I've been burnt by trying to recover a professionally-taken (i.e. someone else's) group shot that had hugely uneven lighting (an inverted grad would have helped). I'll defend my argument that a long-ish exposure at a wide angle that will maximize the aperture of the lens and minimize the apparent motion may be a valid way to get some acceptable and artistic shots, especially if you can get (the camera) up high and there may be lights sweeping the crowd. Issues with the ones I took are far more likely to be my skills than with the concept.

    However, I could be completely misremembering the results, since it's been a very long time since I looked at those images, and the results will depend very heavily on how dark the situation actually is. I'm not going to claim I do this kind of shooting the whole time, I certainly don't claim to have the expertise of the other advisors on this thread, and I certainly wouldn't suggest trying to do this for the whole evening anyway. This was just a "I think I remember this working for me, give it a go for a couple of shots that might be different from your others" suggestion. YMMV.

    For picking out small groups, or the front of the crowd if you don't mind losing the back in murk - and with some nervousness about how popular taking lots of flash photos might be - I certainly won't argue that a flash is pretty much obligatory unless the subject is holding very still. I'm still a little concerned about bouncing the flash if the nearest thing to bounce it off might be 70' away, which is why I was advocating flash-on-a-stick, but without knowing more about the architecture I certainly couldn't comment on what's possible. (Unless that's "bounce" as in an on-flash diffuser, which I'm not going to argue against if it's not too unwieldy.)
    the approach i was suggesting here wasn't to try to capture the entire dance floor at once, which is really only going to work in a posed, or at least pre-planned, group shot. look at a club crowd as a bunch of individual scenes all happening at the same time. that's really like infinite opportunity for candids. but you cant capture it all at once. and you have to work the angles. people in club situations dont always move in a straight line, and will walk into your line of sight unless you're moving as well.​
    I'm suggesting that, with some artistic motion blur, capturing the crowd en masse might not be completely impossible. Or it might be. Or the crowd might not be configured such that it's worth it. It certainly shouldn't be the only shot, and Eric's advice is very wise; what I was suggesting is complementary. I always have reservations about firing a flash in people's faces, especially if they're trying to dance on a very dark dance floor without falling over each other, but if you're the official shooter and it's done in moderation then I'm sure the concerns that I'd apply as a wedding guest are excessive - especially if it's the only way to get the shots you need.
    a monopod is essentially a truncheon. that may be problematic in a club environment, unless you stick to one spot. an off-camera cord allows for better mobility on a dance floor and is more versatile.​
    As ever, "it depends". If you're in a mosh pit, no argument that a monopod is an issue. They're usually fairly light and padded, but at least one end is going to have something heavy and hard on it, and at ground level they're quite a trip hazard. In a less crowded atmosphere, my approach of "hold it horizontally with two flashes" didn't make it stick out much, and I was either propping it on the ground very near me or waving it overhead only when I was well out of the way of the crowd - but I've done that kind of thing in a relatively reserved wedding scenario with plenty of space between dancers, not with people banging elbows. If you can use one safely, my experience is that they can be handy for several reasons, and a cheap one can be very cheap. If you can't - because of circumstances - use one safely, please don't get sued for hurting someone (or yourself, or your equipment) on my say so!

    If it triggers reliably, I prefer wireless lighting (triggered by the on-camera flash) to a cable when moving about. Cables get tangled and never quite have reach when you want them, especially if they're pulling on the camera you're trying to point one-handed. It's also harder to gang a second flash. Again, YMMV.

    I've been suggesting some "out of the box" thinking. I don't deny that "the box" exists and that others here have more experience than me shooting within it. Apologies if advice that I should have prefixed with "you might like to give this a go for variety" came across as "the right approach for all shots".
     

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